Poll: America losing its religion
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May 29th, 2013
03:06 PM ET

Poll: America losing its religion

By Dan Merica, CNN
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Washington (CNN) – More than three in four of Americans say religion is losing its influence in the United States, according to a new survey, the highest such percentage in more than 40 years. A nearly identical percentage says that trend bodes ill for the country.

"It may be happening, but Americans don't like it," Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief, said of religion's waning influence. "It is clear that a lot of Americans don't think this is a good state of affairs."

According to the Gallup survey released Wednesday, 77% of Americans say religion is losing its influence. Since 1957, when the question was first asked, Americans' perception of religion's power has never been lower.

According to the poll, 75% of Americans said the country would be better off if it were more religious.

The poll doesn't reflect Americans' personal religiosity, such as church attendance, but rather how large events and trends shape shared views, Newport explained.

For example, the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War and the rise of the counterculture fed the perception that religion was on the wane during the late 1960s, he said.

Views of a secularizing America peaked in 1969 and 1970, when 75% of Americans said faith was losing its clout in society. A similar view dominated from 1991-94 and from 2007 to the present.

Americans saw religion increasing its influence in 1957, in 1962 and at a few points during the Reagan presidency in 1980. This number also spiked to its highest point ever - 71% - after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The pollster didn't speculate on the contemporary factors that led to the current views on faith's influence.

Still, the poll numbers are dramatically influenced by church attendance, according to Gallup. More than 90% of people who attend church weekly responded that a more religious America would be positive, compared with 58% of Americans who attended church "less often."

The Gallup poll was conducted via telephone from May 2 to May 7. A total of 1,535 people were sampled for the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • United States

soundoff (6,389 Responses)
  1. The real Tom

    Why in the world would anyone, especially Chardo, think that it matters whether one gives through a church or a secular organization, as long as said organization spends as little as possible on administrative bureaucracy?

    Does the idiot really think that atheists only give to "atheist" organizations? Why would anyone be that stupid?

    May 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Why would anyone be that stupid? I suspect the answer is brain damage.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  2. asdf

    Zombie Jesus born to a virgin died for your sins so right wing schmucks could be holier than thou.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • asdf

      Oh yeah I forgot the part where God wanted said right wing schmucks to be rich as well.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  3. Durannie

    Yeah, actually, we DO like it! Can't happen fast enough for me! Hope it hurries before the Catholics own all the hospitals and force their fairy tales on us by denying limiting our medical care options.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  4. Christina

    I am a Christina. I love being one. I love Christ and I love people just the same. I am an Amerian that will never lose their religion but it is what it is. People are and that is their right, all is good. i just really wanted to add that Seth McFarlane's quote is really dumb thought. He said, "It's like the civil-rights movement. There have to be people who are vocal about the advancement of knowledge over faith." I guess he forgot that MLK Jr. and Malcolm X were both quite spiritual.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Dippy

      What is a christina?

      May 29, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Xtians tend to be very poor in the grammar and spelling department....but I do believe this is the first time I've ever seen one misspell "Christian".

      May 30, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  5. EndPoliticalParties

    THANK GOD!! (or Zeus) or whoever... Get people thinking with common sense and to stop preaching and condemning each other. All you need to do or know morally is to treat other people like you want them to treat you. Simple – no 'commandments' needed!

    May 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  6. Scholar

    Such polls have a built-in bias. Those who disparage society's views of religion do so from within their own religious views. Those who agree to take the poll may also be those and only those who think strongly about the topic.
    Of course, more people may be returning to quiet and personal views and practice of religion.
    In the Bible, the Book of Matthew, chapter 6, the admonition by Jesus was that we pray in private and not parade our piety on the busy street corners in front of all others, lest we be hypocrites.
    Perhaps that is what is happening, more people are still religious but not perceived as such because they hold private views instead of being hypocrites.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  7. Aerin

    there is no god. the entire idea is man made.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • pentecostal

      man made! thats where your wrong!! this world is man made! GOD is really bro!

      May 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • sam stone

      God is a figment of man's imagination

      May 29, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
  8. Former "Fundy"

    Thank Goodness for the likes of Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens! Or I might still be enslaved with the fairytale madness that is Christianity. Ever since I came to my senses and became an atheist my life has never been fuller, or happier!!

    May 29, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • pentecostal

      you really dont know what your talking about! i pray for you.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • mickey

      would you be upset and angry if someone told you the reverse?

      May 29, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • sam stone

      "you really dont know what your talking about! i pray for you."

      and we will think for you

      May 29, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  9. jkflipflop

    "Written by: Dan Merica"


    May 29, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  10. Mister Jones

    Good. Once we get rid of it completely, we would have a chance of being the smartest nation in the world. Think about the smartest person you know. Now think about the most religious. If they are the same person, then you are part of the problem.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  11. asdf

    Sadly today in the deep South the Scopes Monkey Trial would go very differently. Progress in that part of the country. Not so much.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • Reality Check

      Scopes lost.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • asdf

      Only technically. He won in the court of public opinion which was critical.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  12. Truthis

    The world might have a chance if we can eliminate religion.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • asdf

      Not going to happen. The world has too many people with high EQ and low IQ for that to occur.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • M

      Where is the evidence for that?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
  13. TrueBlue42

    A better way to put this than "America is losing its religion" would be "America is freeing itself from the mental bondage of religion". And it's about time.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  14. Baa Weet

    People getting frustrated in realizing their prayers fall on def ears,and are not getting replies,but the ones that do get replies are put in a padded room.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  15. jaywoods

    Religion in America is mostly fabricated there was not a man by the name of Jesus his name was Yahshua . Why would god tell anybody to name his son Jesus there was not even the latter j in in Hebrew or Greek at that time .the place they call the middle east, no such place the ancient name is Ethiopia that was the name of the so called Ancient African Continent

    May 29, 2013 at 6:54 pm |

    • http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Evidence_for_the_historical_existence_of_Jesus_Christ

      May 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • Reality Check

      Your argument makes as much sense as saying Nicolaus Copernicus did not exist because his real name was Mikołaj Kopernik.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Ah. I see. The rest of them have it wrong and you have it right. I feel so enlightened.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  16. Over 40,000 sects of insanity

    The U.S. has always been predominantly Christian. But it seems the more time goes by, the more conflicted that majority religion becomes. Perhaps that is becoming more obvious to people, especially the younger generation, and that is why we are seeing a decline overall religiosity of the population.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one (over 4,000,000 members) in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage. One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags". Many of these sects are equally divergent on the roles of women in society.

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri. Some believe the Pope is the Antichrist. Some believe Obama is the Antichrist.

    Some believe that celibacy is the only option for certain people, or for people in certain positions. Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but pretend not to understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease.

    Conflicted right from the start, Christianity continues to splinter, creating more and more extreme divisions, with each division trying to assert itself as some true messenger of the word of the Christian God.

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    (Thomas Jefferson, from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

    May 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  17. Messager

    Wow Enough true that Bible told same exactly what happen will come and soon Jesus coming real soon. Very Sad! They lost their faith because of this story... That's very lousy excuses!

    May 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      That made absolutely no sense. Does your Mommy know you're using her computer?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      Almost as bad as your grammar!

      May 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      wow... the end is coming soon....be prepared for the holy pincushion

      May 29, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
  18. marty

    We're not really losing our religion. It's just the false religions (scientology, islam, lds, ect.) are being forced upon us by the media.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • sam

      You mean they're not ALL false??

      May 29, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • Mike

      Add evangelical Christianity to that list.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • jkflipflop

      No, they're not all false. Of course, YOU just so happened to pick the right one, right?

      May 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Coffeeclue

      Yep, your religion is the only "true" one. All the rest are false.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
  19. leonid7

    "Atheists do not believe in Jesus Christ; therefore they must hate their neighbor and enemy."

    One of my favourite, blatantly non-sensical fallacies of the bunch, based both on content and construction. Jefferson, Adams, Washington and Franklin didn't believe in the divinity of Jesus either, and that never meant at any time, that atheists or deists hate anything, let alone other people. "love your neighbour" is not strictly a Christian philosophy, and many of us don't need someone walk on water for it to have meaning. And remind me again, who makes up the membership of nearly all hate groups and anti-minority movements in the US right now? I'll give you a hint: it's not atheists.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  20. Savannah

    Religion in the USA is on the Decline, The USA is on the Decline– This is no Coincidence when the country is acting like Sodom did, the same thing is going to Happen.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
    • Tim

      Are you suggesting we have unrestricted immigration and welcome everyone in regardless of how unskilled and incapable they might be?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • M

      No, but overpopulation and ultimate exhaustion of our natural resources, along with pollution and global warming are probably going to do civilization in, at least as we enjoy it.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • David Axel

      @Tim no we don't have to accept immigrants, just be welcoming and kind to visitors

      May 29, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • jkflipflop

      Are you suggesting that God is going to hit us with a meteor?

      May 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • Phong

      Your comment make no sense whatsoever. What did you based that on? Any data?
      This country was founded through revolution to combat tyranny.
      It's better that religion and government don't mix.
      And great if religion just go away.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      "the sky is falling, the sky is falling!"


      May 29, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.